It was yet another record year for Greek Island holidays last year, the third in a row. Holiday arrivals in Greece jumped 7.1% to hit an all-time high of 23.6 million. Brits were at the head of the queue with a 14.7% rise in visitors to almost 2.4 million. US tourists numbers rose even higher by nearly 27% but the numbers just topped 750,000. A rise in German tourists of 14.3% helped to offset the 59% slump in Russian visitors. Greek holiday arrivals brought in much-needed cash to help Greece's troubled economy, spending an estimated €14.2 billion - up 6% on 2014. Americans were the biggest spenders with a 44.4% rise to €945.6 million but the British were right behind with a 30.5% increase on 2014 to over €2 billion. December 2015 saw a 12.2% surge in tourism revenues, even though tourism arrivals dropped 9.3% on the previous year.
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Independent holiday guides to Greece and the Greek islands. We try to keep our Greek holiday guides up to date but it's not easy. Please email Greek Islands Postcards if you spot any errors or omissions.
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As an antidote to the usual gushing Greece holiday brochures we offer a more prosaic peek at holidays in Greece and travel in the Greek islands with unbiased reports and independent guides to the best Greek beaches.
Our Popular islands list those in greatest demand. They usually have their own airport and plenty of tourist attractions.
The Peaceful islands tend to be off the main tourist trail and, while some have larger airports, others may need a ferry journey to reach them.
The Sleepy islands are well off the tourist track and may only be reached by ferry, with some a considerable distance from the nearest large airport.
Our Offbeat islands are mainly for those seeking a more remote and authentic holidays in Greece.
Favourite Greek beaches
Paraga beach on Mykonos
One of the smaller beaches on Mykonos, Paraga is set within a deep bay and has good sand mixed with a few pebbles. There are a good restaurants, beach bars and a camp site lies along the headland.
Paradise parties on Mykonos
Paradise is the premiere party beach of Mykonos with non-stop all-night beach bar music and dancing. Youngsters in their thousands flock to this south coast resort to soak up the fnezied beach party atmosphere.
Skala sands on Kefalonia
Skala is a pleasant busy village with plenty of trees and a large number of tavernas and bars. The beach is a spectacular swathe of deep white sand that sweeps off the headland in both directions.
It's been more than two years in the planning but hopes are high that Greek islands seaplane services will finally get off the ground in 2016. It was in 2014 that Hellenic Seaplanes announced plans to operate up to 100 routes between islands across Greece. Bungling Greek bureaucracy is said to be to blame for the failure to grant waterway licences to anywhere but the island of Corfu despite government pledges to cut through Greek red tape. Now it looks like the Ionian islands will get the first seaplane services as Kefalonia, Paxos, Zante and the nearby mainland port of Patra are poised to pick up licences and Chinese investors jump in with new Dornier Seastar seaplanes. There is still plenty of room for traditional Greek delay however so no one is holding their breath.
Featured Greek places
Golf course at Afandou
An 18-hole championship golf links lies behind the long beach at Afandou. Green fees are nominal and facilities here include a pro shop, changing rooms, lockers, showers and a small snack bar.
Mytilini city on Lesvos
Mytilini is the capital of Lesvos and it's built on seven hills above a deep harbour. A centre for the arts, Mytilini boasts good churches and mansion houses as well as some fine museums and galleries.
Paliochora ruins on Aegina
Once the island capital with 20 churches, the remains of Paliochora are set in the side of a hill and crowned with the ruins of a Venetian castle. Abandoned In the 18th century, some chapels have been restored.
Scuba diving off the Greek Islands got a new lease of life when diving bans were lifted. Now Greek scuba dive centres are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. Until recently, diving was limited to just a few Greek island dive sites in order to protect the ancient underwater treasures that lie beneath its seas. Now scuba diving is allowed pretty much everywhere in Greek seas with just a few prohibited sites. The result has been a sharp rise in the number of Greek Island diving centres. In choosing one for your holiday be sure to check that instructors are PADI qualified and the wise will take out specialist scuba diving insurance just in case. That said, the crystal clear waters of Greece are teeming with marine life and there are some spectacular caves and shipwrecks for Greek Island visitors to explore.
Planning ahead has always been a headache for those who like Greek island hopping on the extensive ferry system. Summer timetables were never published before May making it hard work to plan a Greek holiday on more than a couple of islands. Now things are different. Ferry companies got together and agreed to release summer routes and schedules at the end of the previous year. The move makes it possible for Greek holiday enthusiasts to cash in on holiday discounts for booking cheap flights early safe in the knowledge that they will not find themselves stuck on an island for days trying to find out when the next ferry sailing is scheduled. The much-welcomed move should help boost visitor numbers to the Greek Islands and help extend the holiday season.
Greece slipped into third place in the Blue Flag beach quality awards in 2015, picking up flags for only 395 beaches and nine marinas across Greece and the Greek Islands. It places Greece behind tourism rivals Spain, which topped the awards with 578 beaches, and by Turkey with 436 beaches now flying the Blue Flag. in 2014 Greece and the Greek islands were awarded a total of 408 Blue Flags, 15 more than the 2013 but this was cut dramatically when 38 Greek beaches were stripped of their Blue Flags after failing spot checks by beach inspectors. Most the Greek beaches losing the coveted Blue Flag were on the island of Corfu. Only seven Corfu beaches qualify for flags this year compared to 30 in 2014. More then 4,000 beaches and 650 marinas fly the Blue Flags worldwide.
There are more than 6,000 Greek Islands but most are just lumps of rock. Only around 230 are inhabited and about 80 have a population over 100. About a dozen are major holiday destinations with another 20 having substantial tourist visitors. There are six basic island groupings: the Ionian lie to the west and contain holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the north-east is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete - big enough to be on its own.